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I recently received an invitation for a technical interview as a web developer. (I have no previous practical experience. I am self-taught, and decided to change fields. This was after doing a screening interview with the company.

I don't feel comfortable conducting the technical interview. Here's why: The company states that their offices are in Canada (where I live), but in LinkedIn half of its less than 15 employees are without names and pictures. Also, the LinkedIn summary indicates that 5 of their employees live in India!

I'm worried about sharing personal information with them, and am thinking of canceling the interview. Is there a way to make sure they are legitimate before I cancel it?

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    It could be totally legit, or a total scam. It's hard to know. Did you google them? Did you very simply actually PHONE the company? Often getting away from email nonsense can help - try the phone. – Fattie Dec 13 '20 at 21:12
  • I usually go to the company in-person for a technical interview, but now in COVID-19, everything is over the phone and online. I googled them, and their website lists a phone number that starts with a code area in Toronto, but for their location, there is no specific address. They just say that they are in Toronto, and that's all. Can I ask how a phone call can clear things up, as anyone can say they are from the said company if it's a scam to get personal information eventually upon hire? – BlackMath Dec 13 '20 at 21:46
  • @BlackMath, you call them at a phone you have found via a third, legitimate party. – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 14 '20 at 7:50
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    "..their specific address is absent from their website." - Big red flag! What does the impressum say? – iLuvLogix Dec 14 '20 at 11:22
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Each country I've worked at has a Chamber of Commerce or something equivalent like a business registry. Companies have to register there to do business within the bounds of that country. It's a legal requirement.

Searching the name of the company there can answer your question on whether the company is a real legal entity or not.

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  • To add: usually companies ask "What do you know about us?" during the interview. What you suggest would be a good exercise for the OP: digging for information on the company and not just doing a superficial search (e.g. looking at their website). – zmike Dec 14 '20 at 3:59
  • For a company in Canada, you can Search for a Federal Corporation or look in Canada's Business Registries. – BSMP Dec 14 '20 at 18:18
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    In the US, corporations have to register with the Secretary of State for each state. There is no requirement to join the Chamber of Commerce. But, the registration means virtually nothing as many dummy and shell companies are registered. – David R Dec 14 '20 at 19:34
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Part of the interview is gathering this information

It is often forgotten that an interview is a two-way discussion. Not only are they seeing whether they are a good fit for you, but you are seeing whether you are a good fit for them. An interview is exactly where you ask these kinds of questions.

Also, is it a stealth startup? I have friends who have been asked to mask their LinkedIn profiles and I have been asked to remove certain positions from my LinkedIn to prevent information from being found by would-be searchers, but the reasons were not nefarious, just stymieing competitors.

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  • But this is not about if they are a good fit for me, it's rather about making sure it's legitimate. How can I know this during the interview without sounding suspicious? – BlackMath Dec 13 '20 at 21:47
  • ...without sounding suspicious? @BlackMath It's not suspicious to make sure that a company is legitimate, that's just doing due diligence. – BSMP Dec 14 '20 at 18:20
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You may be interviewing for my old job! I once worked for a company exactly like this; while I don't have many of my former coworkers on LinkedIn so I don't know if they have profile pictures, the company was registered in Canada, but most of their work was being done in India. Management was in Canada (my direct supervisor was the CTO of the company who worked in the office next to me), but almost nobody else was; almost all the other employees were in India.

What I'm trying to say is, nothing you've presented here gives me the feeling that this job offer is a scam. That said, if they are unable to present to you a verifiable address (that you can go to physically and check if the company is actually there) and they start asking you sketchy questions like your banking info or whatever, then definitely drop them.

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Easiest way is ask at the source and find out what you can.

When I do due diligence on a company I can't actually visit. I look at their website. Usually they have address details and list staff there. Pretty easy to look up a few staff members.

Usually it's unremarkable, but in one instance one of the key staff who would be accessing my financial systems had previous indictments in the USA for money laundering and fraud. Especially with startups it's a good idea to check out the actual key people, not just look at the business.

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  • There are staff but I couldn't find those who I googled (one name showed with different details on LinkedIn!), and their specific address is absent from their website. – BlackMath Dec 13 '20 at 21:51
  • Linkdin is rubbish, most people have an online presence of some sort that isn't linkdin – Kilisi Dec 14 '20 at 6:59
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Their behavior sounds like they are a recruiter to me. They give loads of random people "technical tests" and try to trick those people into giving them references that they can mine. Or they could be more sinister and looking to get your social insurance number and/or banking details. You'll know because they will try to get that from you on day 1, without even having time to compare you to other applicants. A legit company doesn't move that fast.

If there isn't a specific job description that you're trying to get hired for or you aren't qualified for that job description it's more likely a scam of some kind.

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  • I applied to this job though, and there was a job description that was aligned with my skills, interests, and goals, and I received the screening interview after a week of my application, and a week after that I received an invitation for a technical interview. That's why I am confused. My concern is that it has 5 employees have their names and pictures hidden on LinkedIn (while LinkedIn describes 5 of them live in India), and I wonder why, although it's a very small start-up company! Everything is online nowadays due to COVID-19, and I won't have the chance to visit their office to verify. – BlackMath Dec 14 '20 at 2:01
  • @BlackMath Reminds me of a scam I ran into once where the company asked me to create a profile on a software marketplace that they could use. – HenryM Dec 14 '20 at 4:13
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First, look them as suggested in Eorekan's answer. You can Search for a Federal Corporation or look in Canada's Business Registries. Second, you should ask whatever questions whose answers would make you feel comfortable moving forward with this company. It's normal to make sure you're not being scammed so a small company with little to no online presence should not be shocked that you're being careful. You might ask:

  • What's the address of the Toronto office?
    If they're only remote now because of the pandemic then it's reasonable to ask what your eventual commute will be once things open up again.

  • How profitable was the company last year?
    The wording might need work but you want to know that they can pay you.

  • Who are some of your clients/What are some of your projects?
    How you phrase this will depend on what work they do but what you're looking for is the name of something/someone that can verify that they've done a thing they've claimed to do. A client that can confirm they provided a product/service, a project that has their name on it, the company being credited someplace, etc.

To reiterate an earlier comment, asking questions like this isn't suspicious. It's due diligence. A company this small with so little information about them available shouldn't be shocked or offended that you're making sure they're legit and won't fold 2 weeks after you're hired.

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